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Church Structure

What often escapes our Pentecostal Bible-reading is that spiritual matters usually have some sort of organic (logistical “flesh and blood”) implications. In fact, the physical arrangements are pivotal in many cases. One excellent example of this is the well-known story of Moses’ battle with the Amalekites (Exodus 17). When Moses’ hands were extended, Israel prevailed. That will preach! The spiritual implications are huge—spiritual warfare brings victory. Amen.

Alain Pham

But notice other details in the episode: Moses’ arms needed support to remain aloft (Aaron and Hur); Joshua and others fought an actual physical battle with swords. Without the spiritual power activated by Moses’ simple obedience, no victory was possible, but only with physical arrangements, could spiritual victory be sustained.

We see this same picture on the exodus from Egypt just after Moses meets his father-in-law who is bringing back Moses’ wife after their lengthy separation (chapter 18). Moses tells Jethro about all the miracles God performed, and they have quite a celebration service. Hallelujah! That, too, will preach. Then we come to these telling words: “And it came about on the next day?” (v. 13). Jethro saw the lack of intentional structure in Moses’ approach to ministry, and that every dispute or issue bottlenecked at Moses’ feet. Jethro knew that Moses needed an arrangement of people and responsibilities to continue ministering to the people the “next day”—in between miraculous interventions.

One New Testament episode highlights the synergy between logistical planning and spiritual breakthrough. When the revival in Jerusalem spread so rapidly, the Hellenistic widows were getting overlooked in the food distribution. (Have you noticed how spiritual growth causes problems? That will preach—but only to preachers.) This solution was to delegate and make arrangements for physical realities.

Overly spiritualized interpretations of this text mistakenly assume that Peter considered “waiting on tables” less important than the spiritual tasks of prayer and preaching. Actually, since he and the other disciples had already received their “waiter and busboy” training in the feeding of the multitudes some years earlier (see Matthew 14 and 15), Peter understood that such work would be leadership roles. And it was. Stephen’s heavenly vision and Phillip’s conversion of the Ethiopian flow seamlessly from their structural assignments in the food pantry ministry.

Does structure and over-planning sometimes get in the way of what the Lord wants to do? Of course. I am not saying that we ought to put our trust in well-oiled plans, or rely on administrative structures to accomplish Kingdom enterprise on earth. All plans must be brought under Jesus’ Lordship with the simple belief that a God who gave such detailed instructions about the dimensions and materials and furnishings of His Temple, surely has thoughts for arranging the living church in each of its local expressions.

What practical ways can we think about combining structural arrangements—administration, staff positions, etc.—with spiritual pursuits? More specifically, how can we develop and improve our church structures? Let me offer these suggestions for your consideration, recognizing that they must be adapted to fit with your particular situation:

1. Most importantly, think of structure as a verb (an action or process) rather than as a noun (a thing or product). Structure is something to do—arranging stuff where it belongs now, moving things around, getting things to fit together to accomplish a goal—not something to have. Even if you are able to draw a flow chart with boxes and names and lines of accountability for your church, I can tell you that it is already out-dated. People, things and needs have changed. Good administrative asks the question: Who or what needs who or what to do what we’re trying to do? The answer may be as simple as drivers for the Junior High event or as complex as someone to oversee various care ministries in the church.

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Category: Ministry, Winter 2020

About the Author: Daniel A. Brown, PhD, planted The Coastlands, a church near Santa Cruz, California, serving as Senior Pastor for 22 years. Daniel has authored four books and numerous articles, but he is best-known for the sorts of resources that help local church leaders excel in their spiritual assignment. For more about Daniel Brown, see his ministry resources website: CTW. Facebook. Twitter.

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